This time exposure photograph of the Mobile Service Structure makes the structure appear as a streak of light as it moves away from the Skylab 4 space vehicle the night before the launch. Skylab 4 launched on Nov. 16, 1973. The crew – Commander Gerald Carr, Mission Pilot William Pogue and Edward Gibson – spent 84 days aboard the station.
“Guess what book I’m ordering?” I said to a group of fellow third-graders, pointing to an item in my Scholastic Book catalog. “This one. How Do You Go To The Bathroom In Space?”
One girl looked disgusted. “That’s gross!”
“No it’s not!” I said. “It’s funny!” To be honest, I had zero interest in space or astronomy. But to me, buying a book with a bathroom joke in the title - and not having someone yell at you for it - was living on the edge in its purest form. (How did the author, “William R. Pogue, Astronaut,” not get in trouble for publishing this? I couldn’t believe it.)
The book eventually arrived, and as I started reading it, I became hooked. Yes, I did learn how astronauts went to the bathroom in space. (Spoiler alert: It’s complicated.) But I also learned so much more. The book opened my eyes to a world that I had never thought about. How do astronauts sleep, and eat, and relax? How far away is the nearest star? Why do astronauts float around in space? Judging by my well-worn copy - which I still have - I must have spent a lot of time with that book. It provided the foundation for everything I knew about space.
In January 2013, when I was listening to the eight surviving Skylab astronauts speak to kids at Space Camp, I suddenly realized: The writer of that book, the man who had inspired me so many years ago, was now on that stage and reaching out to an entire new generation of kids. It felt like I had come full circle.
RIP Bill Pogue - Thunderbirds pilot, Skylab 4 astronaut, and the man who, for me, started it all.